Quick facts


Part of Religion and Ethics
84 hours
Internal grading; students may be randomly selected for oral exam
Part of History and Philosophy
140 hours each year (over two years)
Grades (internally assessed); students may be randomly selected for oral and national written exam

In the Norwegian upper secondary school (16-18 years), ethics is part of the ‘Religion and Ethics’ course and the ‘History and Philosophy’ course. ‘Religion and Ethics’ is mandatory for all students attending the university training program. ‘History and Ethics’ is elective for pupils attending the university training program.

Religion and Ethics
‘Religion and Ethics’ is a 1-year course taught the last year of upper secondary school with 84 hours of total duration. The course is a continuation of ‘Christianity, Religion, Philosophy and Ethics’ which is part of the standard curriculum from age 6 to 16.

The course combines the study of religion with the study of philosophy and ethics. The goal is to promote ethical reflection which will help students in mastering life-decisions, becoming responsible citizens, and contribute to society overall.

The ethical training is substantiated by the idea that the course functions as a platform for discussion of ethical problems, like existential questions, questions concerning the impact of technology, and questions about the normative implications of modernity and globalization.

All pupils who attend ‘Religion and Ethics’ are subject to an internal assessment by the teacher. Some pupils will be randomly selected for an oral exam, the form of which will be up to the individual school or teacher. The grade for the oral exam is a separate grade from the internal assessment.

History and Philosophy
‘History and Philosophy’ consists of two modules, (H&P 1 and H&P 2). Each module has a total duration of 140 hours. ‘History and Philosophy’ is an advanced course dealing primarily with with the history of ideas and philosophical topics. It is historically structured and aims to provide the pupils with new perspectives on ‘humans in history, and the history in humans.’ Ethics is touched upon in several parts of the course, such as political theory, environmentalism, and the history of ideas. 

All pupils who attend ‘History and Philosophy’ are subject to an internal assessment by the teacher. Some pupils who attend module 1 will be randomly selected for an oral exam, while some pupils who attend module 2 can be selected for either an oral exam or a written exam (it is however rare that a pupil is selected for both an oral and written exam). As with ‘Religion and Ethics’, the form of the exam will be up to the individual school or teacher. Similarly, the grade for the oral and the written exam is separate from the internal assessment.

Vocational education
In vocational training the emphasis is primarily on ethically relevant topics like critical thinking, cooperation, and solidarity. Furthermore, pupils who attend vocational training are not taught formal ethics. Instead, professional ethics and practical ethics are key components.

Further context
The Norwegian school system is dominated by public schools, with only a small percentage of pupils attending private schools. Elementary school (6-12) and lower secondary school (13-15) is mandatory for all children, while upper secondary school (16-18) is voluntary. Most pupils attend upper secondary school. All schools, public and private, are subject to the national curriculum. This is a comprehensive document issued by the government, specifying the general structure and purpose of every individual course from the first grade of elementary school (age 6) to the last grade of upper secondary school (age 18).

While formal ethics is not a major part of the Norwegian curriculum, there is a discernible emphasis on ethics as part of education in general. In recent years we see a trend in education in general towards including questions of sustainability and ecological awareness.

It should be noted that even though only a portion of pupils learn ethics during upper secondary school, nearly all students who attend Norwegian universities are obligated to take the course ‘Examen Philosophicum’, which is an introduction to philosophy. In this course, ethics play a major part.